A newspaper published by China’s ruling Communist Party is blasting the latest Guns N’ Roses album as an attack on the Chinese nation.
Delayed since recording began in 1994, “Chinese Democracy” hit stores in the U.S. on Sunday, although it is unlikely to be sold legally in China, where censors maintain tight control over films, music and publications.
In an article Monday headlined “American band releases album venomously attacking China,” the Global Times said unidentified Chinese Internet users had described the album as part of a plot by some in the West to “grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn.”
The album “turns its spear point on China,” the article said.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to faxed questions about the article, although a spokesman speaking on routine condition of anonymity said: “We don’t need to comment on that.”
Spokesmen for the Culture Ministry and State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, government bodies that regulate album releases and performances, could not be reached for comment.
The Global Times article referred only to the title of the album and not to specific song lyrics. The record’s title track makes a reference to the Falun Gong meditation movement that was banned by China as an “evil cult” and warns “if your Great Wall rocks blame yourself,” in an apparent message to the country’s authoritarian government.
Songs from the album could be heard on Internet sites such as YouTube and the band’s MySpace page on Monday and it was not immediately possible to tell whether China’s Internet monitors were seeking to block access to it.
Monitors use content filters that highlight and sometimes block messages containing words such as democracy. That prompted some Internet users to combine English and Chinese characters in their postings about the album to skirt such monitoring.
China approves only limited numbers of foreign films and recordings for distribution each year, partly due to political concerns but also to protect domestic producers.
Live performances are also closely regulated, with bands forced to submit set lists beforehand. The Rolling Stones were asked not to play several songs with suggestive lyrics during their 2006 China debut, including “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Beast of Burden” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
Earlier this year, bandleader Harry Connick Jr. was forced to make last-minute changes to his show in Shanghai because an old song list was mistakenly submitted to Chinese authorities to secure the performance permit for the concert. Authorities insisted he play the songs on the original list, even though his band did not have the music for them.
That came just a week after Icelandic singer Bjork embarrassed authorities by shouting “Tibet!” at the end of a Shanghai concert, prompting stricter vetting of foreign performers.
Despite such restrictions, computer file sharing and pirating of DVDs, computer games and music CDs is rampant in China, meaning that much banned material is available through alternative channels.